American Experience: Season 2 (1989 - 1990)

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Season 2
American Experience

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Air date: Oct 3, 1989

This program is part of an informative PBS series that chronicles some of the outstanding events in American history. This episode takes the viewer back to the infancy of aeronautics. The Wright brothers and others had shown that people could fly; but it took a long time to develop the feasibility of commercial air travel accessible by the average person. The program follows the course of four airmen commissioned by the Army Air Service in 1924 to fly around the world, to test and publicize air travel. Not everyone finished the trip, which took almost six months to complete. Archival news footage, photographs, journals, personal accounts, and scholarly commentary re-creates the excitement of the Great Air Race of 1924.

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Air date: Oct 10, 1989

Directed by the Emmy Award-winning Thomas Lennon, this episode of the PBS television series The American Experience focuses on how Prohibition, which lasted from 1919 to 1933, did not come about simply because of Bible-thumping teetotalers, but was in large part a modern attempt to improve the life of workers. As Lennon shows, Detroit-based automobile tycoon Henry Ford parlayed the success of his "Sociological Department," which reduced alcohol use by Ford's workers, into a movement to outlaw alcohol nationwide. Unfortunately, as the documentary also shows, prohibiting something that millions wanted led to criminalizing millions of citizens and opened the door for corruption, smuggling, and graft. In the end, many of Prohibition's supporters came to support repeal of the 18th Amendment. Highlights of this program include archival photos and newsreel footage, as well as commentary by historians.

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Air date: Oct 17, 1989

"A Family Gathering," Lise Yasui's Oscar-nominated short about her Japanese-American roots and the WWII internment of her grandfather. Included: her uncle's legal fight protesting the treatment of Japanese-Americans. Host: David McCullough.

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Air date: Oct 24, 1989

Born a slave in Mississippi, she grew up to become an untiring journalist, teacher, and civil rights activist. Directed by renowned documentarist William Greaves, this award-winning installment of the acclaimed PBS television series The American Experience profiles Ida B. Wells and her passionate struggles against lynching and segregation and for women's rights and suffrage. As Greaves shows in this documentary, in 1909 Wells joined W.E.B. DuBois in founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The program features Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison reading from Wells' memoirs. Other highlights include commentary by historians and descendants of Wells and archival photographs. Narrated by David McCullough.

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Air date: Oct 31, 1989

This episode of WGBH Boston's globally-acclaimed American Experience series for PBS, entitled The Great War of 1918, uses archival footage and candid interviews with survivors of WWI to detail - in great horror - how the automatization of warfare virtually destroyed every romantic and poetic notion the United States held of "going off to fight." With the advent of poison gas, tanks, the machine gun, long-range explosives, and trench warfare, World War I blindly destroyed millions of American lives, and - almost a century later - remains the most tragic conflict that the United States has yet entered, its casualties towering high above WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. This fascinating and disturbing program gingerly explores that conflict and serves as a reminder and a warning, cautioning us against similar calamities that threaten to arise in the future.

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Air date: Nov 7, 1989

This program is part of a PBS series entitled the American Experience. This episode presents a loving and humorous tribute to the great American pastime, baseball. Tracing baseball's history with many high and low points offers the viewer a fresh look at the ubiquitous sport loved by young and old. A variety of baseball aficionados, from players to coaches to fans, weigh in on the meaning and importance of baseball in American culture. Archival news clips, photographs, and interviews are used to illustrate the story.

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Air date: Nov 14, 1989

Civil rights activist Julian Bond narrates this Academy Award-nominated documentary profile of the charismatic American civil rights leader who taunted the white establishment, desegregated congress, and smeared the beloved Martin Luther King, Jr. before going into self-imposed exile on the island of Bimini. Beginning his career as the pastor of Harlem's gigantic Abyssinian Baptist Church, Adam Clayton Powell began an improbable climb to power that was both illustrious and controversial. But Powell's fall was equally spectacular, and in this documentary, filmmaker Richard Kilberg spares no details in his efforts to investigate the true nature of power, politics, and personality as related to the man who remains a pivotal figure in history despite his personal flaws.

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Air date: Nov 21, 1989

In the late 19th century and well into the 20th, the majority of Americans lived on farms, far from any stores. The Sears & Roebuck catalogue brought consumer goods to this backbone of the nation. Originally telecast on the award-winning PBS series The American Experience, this documentary chronicles how two watch salesmen, Richard Sears and Alva Roebuck, revolutionized the marketing of merchandise and built a world-class corporation in the process. Highlights include commentary by historians, shots of early Sears catalogue items, archival photographs, and film footage.

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Air date: Dec 5, 1989

Renowned conservationist John Muir called it a "grossly destructive commercial scheme." As shown in this documentary, the move by the city of San Francisco in 1906 to dam the Hetch Hetchy National Park to make a reservoir prompted a fierce battle in Washington, DC. The Hetch Hetchy was one of three High Sierra valleys in California that included Yosemite and the Upper Tuolumne. It boasted a 1,700-foot high waterfall over which tumbled a greater volume of water than Yosemite Falls. President Theodore Roosevelt, a man who loved the outdoors and had helped get wilderness areas preserved, found his political aims of advancing American economic might to be at odds with his instincts for conservation. In the end the dam was built. John Muir wrote that "These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar." To this day there are proposals by conservationists to remove the dam. Directed by Lawrence R. Hott, this program covers the development of the National Wilderness Preservation System with the aid of John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service. Highlights include archival photographs and film footage, with commentary by Rod Nash and Wallace Stegner.

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Air date: Dec 12, 1989

Directed by David Hoffman, this installment of the PBS series The American Experience profiles Bascom Lamar Lunsford, a folklorist who worked during the 1920s to record over 300 folk songs, as well as folk tales and documentary footage of Appalachian dancers for the U.S. Library of Congress. In doing so, Lunsford created an invaluable record of the "hillbilly" way of life that has largely disappeared today. In addition to the music and archival film footage, highlights include commentary by folklorists Alan Lomax and Mike Seeger.

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